A dairy's carbon footprint is broader than electricity use

Cows grazing at the WCROC
October 13, 2015

The dairy operation at the WCROC milks 250 cows twice daily and is representative of a mid-size Minnesota dairy farm. The goal of our project is to increase renewable electric energy generation on Minnesota dairy farms by establishing a "net-zero" energy milking parlor. As the research goes forward, we are beginning to add new energy savings equipment, renewable energy production, and practices to help lower the energy requirements for our dairy operations. One of our goals is to conduct a life cycle assessment (LCA) study on our dairy products.

Our team at the WCROC in Morris, MN has been monitoring water and energy usage since August 2013 within our two dairy production systems. The data have included all the electricity, natural gas, and petroleum products used directly in animal care, along with the indirect energy used to grow feed for the dairy. A data logger (Campbell Scientific CR3000) was installed in the utility room of the dairy milking parlor in August 2013 and is monitoring 18 individual electric loads, 12 water flow rates, 13 water temperatures, and 2 air temperatures. Average data values are recorded every 10 minutes. The data were used to evaluate energy and water usage of the various milking appliances throughout the day and total daily usage over a month or year. After a year of baseline, renewable energy alternatives were added to the facility to reduce the carbon footprint of the dairy production system.  Read more

Dairy Herd Management